The Economist takes an in-depth look at the origins and long-terms effects of the war, saying the conflict is more than simply punishing Georgia for its aspirations to join NATO, or even trying to displace Mikheil Saakashvili but “it is about Russia, resurgent and nationalistic, pushing its way back into the Caucasus.”
It says the Russian people will likely pay the biggest price for the attack on Georgia, as the war could keep Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in power for years to come and lead to further stifling of civil freedoms.
In USA Today, Leon Aron describes the psychological and practical elements of Russian foreign policy under Putin and his successor – invocations of a great Soviet past, a focus on imagined external enemies, and a fervor to reassert territorial sovereignty – that are fueling the current conflict.
“Thus, ‘Prime Minister’ Putin confirmed to Russia and the world what many have suspected: The elections in Russia are a sham, and so is the constitutional division of power. Buried under the rubble in the Georgian city of Gori are also the vague hopes of Medvedev’s trimming at least the excesses of Putinism with domestic ‘liberalization’ and a more accommodating foreign policy that his speeches had seemed to imply. All his words about the ‘rule of law’ and ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘anti-corruption’ appear today to have as little credibility as the man who said them. To the extent that there were the ‘liberals’ and the ‘hard-liners’ among the Russian leadership, the distinction seemed to matter little when a decision was made to choose war. Most disconcerting, the Georgia incursion is a colossal setback for the already weak forces of democracy inside Russia.”